Pokémon is a franchise that encapsulates a lot: the trading card game, the anime, several movies, and of course, the thing that started it all, the video games. But despite the transmedia craze around the franchise, the thing that most people love and remember the series for is the Pokémon – specifically the starter Pokémon. Starter Pokémon are the creatures you can access at the beginning of every mainline game. Every Pokémon game introduces three starter Pokémon for players to choose from, a grass, water, and fire type. Since Pokémon is a giant multimedia franchise, we'll look at almost every aspect of a starter Pokémon. Everything will be considered, from their design and appearance in the anime to their usefulness in battle and evolutions.
Chespin's first form has a pretty decent design with its grassy hood and prominent front teeth. It is cute, as always. But Chespin's middle evolution, Quilladin, is one of the most unnatural evolutions in the series, barely resembling Chespin. This inconsistency continues with the final evolution, Chesnaught, whose color palette and proportions are a total mismatch with the previous two forms.
Some weird designs are not enough to put a starter at the bottom of this list, but Chespin's also not that useful. Chestnaught's grass-fighting typing is unique, but it gives the Pokémon several type disadvantages, including a double weakness against flying types. Mix in low speed and special defense stats, and Chesnaught is pretty easily last place on this list.
Snivy, the grass snake Pokémon, is arguably the best-looking starter of its generation, but that does not mean much because Black & White features arguably the worst starting lineup in history.
Snivy starts as a cool, sassy, and calm Pokémon before eventually evolving into the majestic Serperior. Serperior's is beautifully regal, but its low offensive capabilities show that even the most beautiful Black & White starter is not that useful.
Oshwaott's placement here is a shame because its initial design is adorable. The seashell on its chest doubles as an insanely cool weapon in the anime and a cool gimmick for a starter Pokémon. Oshawott's main problems come when it begins to evolve. The final evolution, Samurott, has nothing in common with the previous forms, barely resembling an Oshawott. Samurott's speed and defense stats are probably the bigger offenders since there is no practical reason to keep this Pokémon in the party.
Chikorita is a personal favorite for nostalgia, but its unremarkable looks stop it from moving further up this list. The Pokédex describes Chikorita as the leaf Pokémon, which is a little too vague. All grass types are leaf Pokémon, right? Chikorita's long neck might be its most memorable physical feature, which is not a selling point. Chikorita's placement is also partially due to the Pokémon Company's treatment of this starter. The other starters from Gold & Silver have received much more attention in the two decades since their introduction.
On top of all this, Chikorita's grass typing makes it weaker against the first two gym leaders in Gold & Silver. Additionally, this Pokémon's host of supportive abilities isn't very useful in the game's early stages. Chikorta's slow speed through all three evolutionary forms puts it near the bottom of this list.
Scorbunny is by no means a bad Pokémon – none of the starters on this list are. Scorbunny's problem is that it is a little too generic and overly energetic, which is only a problem when it stands next to the other, much more chill, Generation 8 starters. Scorbunny's agile, humanoid evolutions also feel derivative when we already have Torchic. Nevertheless, Scorbunny excels when it comes to an incredibly high-speed stat and great offensive capabilities – it is just a shame it looks like so many other Pokémon.
During Tepig's introduction, fans were very lukewarm on this starter. Of course, Tepig is hard to hate with its porky shape and darker features. It is just that by the time Tepig evolved into Emboar; its type would change into a fire/fighting combo – the third generation in a row to have the fire starter evolve into this archetype, after Torchic and Chimchar. Fans were generally tired of this match, making Tepig the least popular starter from Black & White.
Pokémon Sword and Shield was the subject of countless memes in 2019 as fans mocked the game before its release. As the first mainline title to launch on consoles, fans were eager to see the franchise expand its horizons with next-gen tech. However, sub-par animations and the removal of several Pokémon from the Pokédex muted positive reactions online.
Fortunately, one of the few bright spots in Sword & Shield's marketing was the reveal of Sobble, an anxious, uneasy water lizard. It is hard to look at Sobble and not feel protective over a Pokémon that “cries when scared.” Sobble loses some of its lusters when it evolves to be more confident and capable, but its first form is undeniably alluring
Unfortunately, Treecko would have been much higher on this list if we were assessing the situation when Treecko debuted in the third-generation games. When Ruby & Sapphire was released, whether an attack utilized a Pokémon's physical or special attack depended on the type of move. For example, every grass type move relied on a Pokémon's special attack stat, meaning Treecko's host of grass type moves and its high special attack led to significant potential in terms of damage output. But due to impactful changes in the coming years, Treecko's movesets are now mainly physical attacks. Therefore, Treecko's moves do not take advantage of its stats. Regardless, Treecko and its evolutions remain slickly designed throughout and have an extraordinarily high speed stat.
Who would have thought this meager little chicken would evolve into the effortlessly cool Blaziken, the first fire-fighting starter? Whenever Blaziken shows up, you know you will have a good time, whether it is the fast-paced action scenes in the anime, Blaziken's lethal kicks in Pokkén Tournament, or the actual game Blaziken debuted in, Ruby & Sapphire. Its fire-fighting moveset is not as powerful as what Chimchar has access to, which is the only thing holding this Pokémon back.
Grookey is a charming grass type monkey Pokémon in Sword & Shield. The main attraction, at first sight, is a wooden stick that keeps Grookeys hair in place.
When we were introduced to Grookey, he even used this little stick to play the drums, which was adorable. Grookey's stick is a similar prop to Oshawott's shell – these Pokémon would not be unique without it, but it is a clever gimmick while it lasts. Sadly, Grookey's evolutions never go any further with stick prop. Perhaps they could have given Rillaboom a large tree to wield, but that is just wishful thinking.
The initial pitch for Fennekin is great: a fox Pokémon that evolves into a fire-psychic wizard, fully equipped with a wand. Unfortunately, Fennekin's final evolution, Delphox, isn't as grand as that description might suggest. Still, Fennekin is easily the best starter of its generation and an irresistibly cool Pokémon in its own right.
Delphox's fire-psychic typing gives it more type weaknesses than strengths, but it also offers Delphox access to potent special abilities. Coupled with Delphox's high special attack stat, you will find that Delphox can one-hit KO many encounters. Its inclusion in Pokkén Tournament and swathes of fan art online prove that Fennekin is a starter that can stand the test of time.
Popplio, the sea lion Pokémon, is the least popular starter in Sun & Moon, which is a shame since it probably outclasses Rowlet and Litten with its offensive capabilities. This is partially down to Popplio's forgettable appearance and lackluster middle evolution. Unfortunately, Popplio's looks aren't anything to write home about until you get to its final evolution, Primarina.
Primarina is a cross between a sea lion and a mermaid; the results are majestic when you see this Pokémon in action. Regarding combat abilities, Primarina's water-fairy typing makes Primarina a juggernaut. Fairy is one of the only types to be strong against dragon type Pokémon, and its weaknesses are easy enough to avoid in Sun & Moon. You cannot go wrong with a Primarina in your roster.
Litten was Pokémon Sun & Moon's fire-starter, a small, agile cat that immediately became the internet's favorite of the three. Looking back, it is surprising that there had not been a feline starter Pokémon before this point, considering how popular cats have always been on the internet. Nintendo fully capitalized on Litten's popularity by including its final form, Incineroar, to Super Smash Bros.‘ fully equipped with a wrestling moveset that can lead to epic combos and finishers.
Even though Incineroar looks like a pro-wrestler, it thankfully wasn't another fire-fighting mashup. Incineroar's fire-dark typing makes it resistant to many powerful psychic attacks while giving it plenty of versatile moves to use itself. It's a slight shame that Litten evolves into another bipedal Pokémon, but I guess there are other four-legged cat Pokémon in the series.
Cyndaquil, the flaming hedgehog, had much to live up to as the second fire starter in the series. Cyndaquil is not as popular or enticing as Charmander, but it is charming in its own way with its slit eyes, long snout, and flames that shoot out of its back when agitated. Cyndaquil has also received a fair bit of attention after Gold & Silver, returning as a starter in Pokémon Legends Arceus in 2022, where it received an updated design to Typhlosion.
Regarding utility, Typhlosion is mostly on-par with Charizard, minus the flying type addition. Arguably, Typhlosion is a more proficient starter since it comes in handy in the most arduous battles in Hoenn. Cyndaquil also has a boost akin to Chimchar's since Johto is a relative wasteland regarding usable fire types.
Turtwig and its evolutionary line is a better-realized version of Chesnaught. Turtwig is the tiny leaf Pokémon – I told you all grass types were leaf Pokémon – but that small leaf turns into an entire ecosystem when we reach the final evolution, Torterra. Torterra's a Pokémon with a tree and bits of rock growing on its back; even its name comes from the Latin word for Earth.
While Turtwig is behind its Diamond & Pearl counterparts, it is still a powerhouse creature thanks to its hefty defense and potential to exert massive damage. Turtwig also learns Earthquake – an effective ground move – relatively early in the game. The only downside here is that Torterra is absolutely useless against flying types, thanks to its grass/ground typing.
And now we get to the original Pokémon starters. Charmander, and the following Charizard, are easily the most recognizable fire types in the entire series. Charmander's design follows his arch in the original anime. It goes from a wide-eyed lizard to a sassy, adolescent lizard to a towering, menacing dragon. One of the most significant tearjerker moments in the anime was when Ash said his final goodbyes to Charizard, but that was far from the last time we'd see this Pokémon in action. Since then, Charizard has had two mega-evolutions, appeared in Smash Bros. as a playable character, and has been a consistent part of Pokémon's marketing.
There is no doubt that Charmander and its evolutions are iconic, but it fairs a little worse than its contemporaries. Charizard's dual fire-flying type does not add much to the Pokémon, especially since there are plenty of other viable flying types in Kanto. In addition, picking Charmander makes the first stretch of the game much more difficult, which is either a pro or a con depending on where you stand on the difficulty debate. Charizard's issues are enough to knock it off the top 10 despite solid base stats and Charmander being a bonafide icon for the series.
Piplup is a Pokémon design working at its best. Effortlessly endearing, merchandisable, and believable. The starters in Diamond & Pearl are probably the best lineup since the original three, and Piplup still stands out from its counterparts.
Piplup's final evolution, Empoleon, is the only water-steel type Pokémon in the entire series, giving it plenty of type advantages and resistances. Combine this with Empoleon's high defense and special attack stats, and Piplup is an exceedingly reliable starter Pokémon. In addition, Piplup's evolution from a loveable baby penguin to an intimidating emperor is legendary and makes Piplup one of the best starters in the series.
Totodile is everything you want in a starter Pokémon. Initially, Totodile is cute enough to be plastered on any merchandise, but by the time it evolves into Feraligatr, this Pokémon is ferocious. It is a standard set by the original starters, and Totodile's evolutionary line perfectly emulates this formula.
Totodile is not just a well-designed evolutionary line; Feraligatr is almost definitely the strongest starter Pokémon in Gold and Silver. Johto has several great water-type Pokémon, but Ferilgatr can stand up to any of them. Unfortunately, the Pokémon Company has not given Totodile as much love as it deserves. Still, it may receive the same treatment as Cyndaquill and be included in a future spin-off title.
Froakie is easily the most recognizable starter Pokémon in recent years thanks to its final evolution, Greninja's, inclusion in Nintendo's all-star brawler, Super Smash Bros., and an impressive run in the Pokémon XYZ anime. The anime had a unique take on mega evolutions regarding Greninja, forming with Ash to create the appropriately titled Ash-Greninja. Its design was classic Greninja, slim, agile, and lethal, but this variant adopted Ash's black and red colors on its head. Furthermore, Ash-Greninja could go head-to-head with the strongest Pokémon, including an impressive fight with a mega evolved Sceptile in the anime.
Greninja has also been a mainstay in competitive Smash Bros. and Pokémon tournaments due to its impeccable speed and versatility in both games. Nothing is more satisfying than watching a professional Smash Bros. player juggling an opponent while scurrying from one side of the map to the other. If not already, Greninja is certainly a future series icon.
Rowlet was a popular starter from the minute it was introduced in Sun & Moon, and if its inclusion as a starter in Pokémon Legends Arceus and Pokkén Tournament DX is anything to go by, this has not changed. Rowlet is a grass owl Pokémon, but its ability to turn its head 180 degrees is questionable since Rowley's entire body is ball-shaped. Regardless, the general concept for Rowlet is alluring either way, especially once it has fully evolved into Decidueye, a unique grass-ghost type.
Decidueye is one of the most memorable grass evolutions for a reason. Its hooded, mysterious appearance and archer-theming are cool enough, but Decidueye is also a powerhouse Pokémon. Its ghost typing makes it invulnerable against common normal type attacks, and its varied moveset makes it a versatile fighter. Decidueye's Hisuian variant is just as interesting and even more threatening due to its grass-fighting matchup.
It is difficult to remove any bias regarding the original Kanto starters. Mainly this bias is due to nostalgia. Looking at any of the three gives off a warm and fuzzy feeling. The images of the three original starters tower over the franchise. Squirtle has reappeared countless times – in the anime where the Squirtle Squad exudes a natural charisma – in merchandise and the actual games. But even if you strip all that away, Squirtle would still crack the top ten.
Once Squirtle evolves into Blastoise, it becomes an incredibly versatile Pokémon. Its offensive stats are not remarkable, but Blastoise is exceptionally capable of dealing with a threat. Its utility lies in its bulky defensive stats, which makes sense for a turtle whose shell is such a big selling point. If you are looking for a bulky water type, Lapras can easily replace Blastoise. Regardless, Squirtle's design is irresistible happiness, distilled into a cluster of pixels. So why would it not be here?
Eevee had already been around for 23 years before becoming a starter in the Pokémon Let's Go games in 2018. But by that point, Eevee was already one of the faces of the franchise. So Eevee's adorable design is almost genius from a marketing perspective. Eevee's defined ears, fur scarf, and sparkling eyes beg to be plastered on every pencil case and plushie.
But Eevee is probably most famous for its unique evolutionary path. Instead of following one linear evolution path, Eevee can evolve into seven different Pokémon of various designs and types, sweetly named Eeveelutions. While the first Pokémon games only included three types for Eeveelutions – electric, water, and fire – future installments added variants of several newer types like the icy Glaceon and the psychic Espeon. These iterations and additions to Eevee's evolutionary line keep Eevee exciting while inspiring some of the most interesting fanart in the community.
Eevee's power to stay relevant in the franchise is legendary – even if it has been a quiet climb to the top. Eevee's a staple in the anime – a companion to Dawn and May – and a mainstay of the franchise's merchandising empire. In addition, Eevee's ever-evolving evolutions mean that they are one of the most in-demand Pokémon in the games.
Mudkip is similar to Chimchar since playing through Ruby & Sapphire with this starter essentially means playing through the game on easy mode. This is mainly thanks to Mudkip's evolutions having a water-ground typing, meaning its only weakness is against grass type Pokémon. Luckily for Mudkip users, there are no grass gyms in Hoenn, so players are free to trample the competition with a single Pokémon.
Outside of Mudkip's impressive combat capabilities, it is just a cool Pokémon. Mudkip is described as the mudfish Pokémon in the Pokédex, but it is essentially just a swamp frog. Frogs are inherently weird and cute, or weirdly cute, and Mudkip embraces that energy completely – walking the line between weird amphibian and loveable pocket monster. By the time it evolves into Swampert, it is a hulking beast, and Swampert's mega evolution is even more menacing. Overall, it is slightly disappointing that Mudkip has not recently seen much love from the Pokémon Company.
Bulbasaur is probably the least popular of the original three, which is a testament to how iconic the first 151 Pokémon were since Bulbasaur is still immensely recognizable, whether you play every Pokémon or not. Bulbasaur still has boatloads of merchandise worldwide, its evolution Ivysaur is still in Super Smash Bros., and it's still an undeniable face of the series.
Venusaur is the most well-adjusted starter from Pokémon Red & Blue, thanks to its considerably high defensive stats and restorative abilities. In addition, Venusaur is built to survive long encounters with high endurance. Venusaur's mega evolutions take this further, making Bulbasaur a legendary starter.
Chimchar has a natural advantage in this list since Diamond & Pearl were such unbalanced games. Chimchar and Ponyta were the only fire types available before the end of the game. If you did not pick Chimchar and did not like Ponyta, you were essentially out of fire types to choose from. Despite this, Chimchar is still an attractive starter Pokémon on its own merits.
As a starter, Chimchar's large eyes and oversized head scream out to any new trainers. And once Chimchar evolves into an Infernape, its fire-fighting type makes it unstoppable in many scenarios. Chimchar edges out Torchic for the crown of best fire-fighting starter thanks to its higher speed and high-intensity action scenes in the anime.
There is not much to say about Pikachu that has not already been said. Pikachu has been a series staple for as long as it has existed, and since then, Pikachu has grown into a pop culture icon. Pikachu's lasting status as a video game icon is probably due to its visibility. Countless toys, key art, movies, anime, and spin-off games have starred the adorable electric rodent.
Pikachu first appeared as a starter in Pokémon Yellow, where players only had the option of starting with Pikachu. Pokémon Yellow was the first Pokémon game to allow a creature to follow us outside of battles – this eventually became a series feature. The tiny pixelated version of Pikachu is nowhere near as detailed as a modern 3D render, but at the time, Pikachu seemed just as expressive as any pet. It was how it would dance when idle, look for you when you left it behind a barrier, and smile when you interacted with it. Pikachu was the loyal, brave, and adorable companion we all wished for while watching the anime.
Since then, Pikachu headlined his own Hollywood blockbuster, passing $400 million at the global box office. Pikachu is the only Pokémon in Super Smash Bros. to have two of its evolutionary forms represented. And after over 20 years, Pikachu and Ash are still inseparable in the anime. Pikachu has almost transcended Pokémon as a series. Pikachu is one of the faces of modern video games and is likely a character that kids will grow up loving for decades to come.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Copywriter, experienced editor, website creator, PR associate, consultant
- Expertise: Gaming, Pokémon, movies, TV shows, PR, and creative writing
- Education: BS in Business Economics (specializing in Business Management), minor in Japanese from Tokyo International University
- Helped lead or create websites, such as GameRevolution, VGR, RPGInformer, MangaInsider, FandomPost, POKUniverse, and more.
- Helped launch various indie video games, tech startups, and consulted for YouTube Shorts
- Writer in the entertainment industry since starting in high school in 2011
Experience: Cody Perez started his career as a journalist and creative writer in the tech and gaming spaces in 2011 while in the middle of high school. Since then, he has produced thousands of high-quality, researched articles for some of the largest entertainment websites in the world, including IGN, Destructoid, Siliconera, Digital Trends, DotEsports, and many more. He also was the lead editor at GameRevolution, growing the site to reach its consistent, historical peak of 8 million MUV the entire time he worked there. Cody also helped launch various successful sites, such as VGR (2 million MUV in a year), POKUniverse, and RPGInformer.
Cody brings together his passion for tech and gaming to his work life, so he can enjoy his hobbies nearly 24/7. He has now taken his expertise and experience with subjects like gaming and Pokémon to Wealth of Geeks, where he is often found creating new lists and reviews, or editing older content to bring it up to the company standard.